Guna and the Mind


What the GUNA? I hear you ask!

You are not alone if Ayurveda - and Yoga for that matter - start to get a little too intense for you when it comes to all the mind-stuff. It doesn’t come easy but I promise you - there are true gems of wisdom to be found in Ayurvedic psychology.

Ayurveda recognises the Mind as separate from the Self.

I like to think of the essence of who I am as a flame of existence located in the heart. That satisfies my need to project a mental image of myself within my body. This is important because then it’s possible to identify the mind as something different.

Essentially what we are doing here is objectifying the mind, recognising the mind as an organ of the body with a job to do. Its job is to process our impressions, thoughts, feelings and experiences. This is a key concept because a lot of the time we get so caught up in the activity of the mind we lose sight of the difference between our essence (our true self) and our busy mind.

Now here’s how the term ‘guna’ comes into the picture.

There are three different states of being in nature, they are:

  • Sattva (meaning light, harmonious, balanced and good)

  • Rajas (meaning changeable, active, passionate and confused), and

  • Tamas (meaning dull, dark, destructive, decaying).

The three guna can be identified in nature, they are all around us influencing and affecting our natural world. They are also very present in our weather, a more subtle aspect of our natural world and in the seasons. They are the governing principles of cause and effect. Rajas creates life, Sattva sustains life, Tamas destroys life. Here’s a few examples: Imagine a Sattvic dawn or twilight, a Rajasic day, a Tamasic night.

Now let’s apply these conditions to the mental organ within our body, the channel through which flows the energies between internal and external environments.

Well, guna relates to three different possible states of mind as follows:

  • Sattva creates a light, harmonious, balanced mind

  • Rajas creates a changeable, active, passionate and confused mind

  • Tamas creates a dull, dark, destructive mind

But what’s really important here is to recognise that although the mind is affected, the essence of who we are, the flame of existence located in the heart that represents our true self, is not. In our essential state of being we are unchanging.


Four key principals to get you started with Ayurveda: Body, Mind, Inner Fire, Life Purpose